Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 22, Issue 2, 1 Feb 2020



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Hello readers. Following is the latest batch of reviews:

An interview with Joey L. Dowdy

The author of Rise to The Rhythm talks about his book, his past struggles, his strategies for staying positive in the face of these, his inspiration, how to overcome a rut, the books he’s reading, how he balances the different segments of his life, and more. Read more:

A review of Recipe for Garum by Robert Letters

The poems in this section express deep feelings for nature as is characteristic of the genre. The sensory details and expressive language in this section are enhanced with striking imagery and in some of them, deep emotions. Recipe for Garum is an unusual book: very well written and entertaining. Reading it is a quiet pleasure. Read more:

A review of Little One by Peter Papathanasiou

There is a great warmth and sincerity embedded within this memoir, mixed in with gentle humour, discussions of complex research on genetics, birth, death, siblings, parents, family, Greek culture, love. The genesis of the story arises from a secret, one of the biggest secrets a person can have revealed to them, that of their true origins. Read more:

A review of Unfinished Child by Lindsey Warren

Put the idea of reading this book of poetry cover to cover to bed. For the reader to have control over direction but not the journey’s destination makes Lindsey Warren’s inventive debut collection, Unfinished Child, read like real life. But moving through the poems also parallels a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Read more:

A review of The Persecuted by Krishna Mohana Banerjea

Paromita Sengupta’s “Editorial Notes on the Text” as well as “Bibliography” help us understand the text better and stir our desire to know the life and times of the protagonist, Bany Lall, and like-minded youths thoroughly. It is a must read for every Bengalee, nay Indian, who would love to trace the history of the times, seemingly past and lost in the abyss of time. Read more:

A review of All the Lives We’ve Lived by Roslyn McFarland

Kate’s trajectory is one of discomfort and discovery as she unearths, and then rewrites her history and the history of Salt Pan Creek, facing the wrongs she and her people, including her own parents, have done, and attempting to right them. McFarland does a beautiful job of pulling history, fiction, multiple love stories and trauma together into a coherent narrative that is powerful. Read more:

A review of The Imaginary Age by Leanna Petronella

The homely, everyday objects of our lives that we take for granted become iconic signposts, saturated with meaning, as time unspools. “My childhood was a safe, dark pocket. Now, nothing feels like my childhood djd.” Read more:

An interview with James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

The highly popular and comprehensive Midwest Book Review has been in operation since 1976, and hosts 9 monthly book review magazines such as the Reviewer’s Bookwatch and Internet Bookwatch which are written by volunteer reviewers.  Editor-in-Chief, James A. Cox, talks about the site and how it came to be all those years ago and the changes that have taken place, how he keeps up with resources, his connection with libraries and mailing lists, his most popular links, their funding model, and lots more. Read more:

A review of The Espionage Act by Jennifer Maiden

This is work that not only provides a different kind of news — engaging with issues like free speech, democracy, aesthetics and ethics – a continual source of interest for Maiden and one she explores with the full weight of her poetic talent, but also allows the reader to see things from a different, and at times, magic realism perspective. Read more:

A review of Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Eilish is wry in the way of the enfant terrible but also scary, a bad seed with a beat box and an hermetical disposition that runs to chaos. At first, I thought she’d sprung fully angst-ed out of the head of some A&R woman. The maturity of her lyrics and the fierce, unwavering satire in her phrasing and in her tunes—all a clever ploy for pop stardom in the vein of a DJ Alanis Morrisette or a more whispery Bjork. Read more:

All of the reviews listed above available at The Compulsive Reader on the front page. Older reviews are kept indefinitely in our extensive (and growing) categorized archives (currently at 2,564), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, author Rose Tremain was made a Dame for services to writing, and Jackie Kay, the Scots Makar, received a CBE for services to literature in the 2020 U.K. New Year’s Honors list, the Bookseller reported, adding that Sir Elton John, author of autumn memoir Me, was made a Companion of Honor for services to music and charity. OBEs went to artist and author David Shrigley for services to visual arts; former Reading Agency CEO Sue Wilkinson for services to literature and writing, and author and cook Nigel Slater.

The Jacana Literary Foundation has announced a shortlist for the 2019/20 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award, which “aims to promote new southern African fiction that speaks to both a local and international audience,” the Reading List reported. The award “encourages new writers and new readers by publishing material that would likely otherwise not have been selected–for purely commercial reasons–by local publishers of literature.” The winner, who receives R35,000 (about $2,470), will be announced in March in Johannesburg. The shortlisted works are: Christopher by Nozuko Siyotula, Scatterlings by Resoketswe Manenzhe, and Sleeping Naked by Julia Landau. The JLF will also present the R25,000 (about $usd1,765) Kraak Writing Award, with the winning writer selected from the runners-up.

Winners have been named in the five Costa Book Awards categories . Each author receives £5,000 (about $6,465) and is now eligible for the £30,000 (about $38,795) Costa Book of the Year prize, which will be announced January 28 in London. This year’s Costa category winners are: Novel: Middle England by Jonathan Coe, First novel: The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins, Biography: The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero Who Infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather, Poetry: Flèche by Mary Jean Chan, and Children’s: Asha & the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan.

The shortlist has been unveiled for the CAD$25,000 RBC Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction, which recognizes an author “whose book best combines a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style and a subtlety of thought and perception.” The winning author will be announced March 2 at an awards ceremony in Toronto. Each finalists receives C$5,000 (about US$3,820). The winner also names his or her choice for the C$10,000 (about US$7,640) RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Award. This year’s shortlisted titles are: Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson by Mark Bourrie, Had it Coming: What’s Fair in the Age of #MeToo by Robyn Doolittle, Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by Jessica McDiarmid, The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World by Ziya Tong, and The Mosquito: A Human History of our Deadliest Predator by Timothy C. Winegard.

The finalists for the 2020 Story Prize are: Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf), Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine (One World), Grand Union by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press). The winner of the $20,000 prize will be announced in New York City on February 26 at an event that features readings by and discussions with the three finalists. The runnersup receive $5,000.

The Audio Publishers Association will honor Stephen King for lifetime achievement at the 2020 Audie Awards. Scheduled for March 2 in New York City, this will be the 25th annual Audie Awards ceremony. King has won Audie Awards four times and been nominated 17 times. He has narrated many of his own audiobooks and has been an outspoken advocate for the medium. The APA also announced that Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers and co-owner of Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, N.Y., Adam Silvera, author of They Both Die at the End, and R. Eric Thomas, senior staff writer at Elle online, will be judges for the 2020 Audiobook of the Year.

The National Book Critics Circle has named 30 finalists in six categories–autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction and poetry–for the outstanding books of 2019. The awards will be presented on March 12 in New York. Also, NBCC announced that Naomi Shahib Nye will be honored with the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement; Sarah M. Broom won the John Leonard Prize for Best First Book for The Yellow House: A Memoir (Grove); and Katy Waldman is receiving the 2019 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. View the full list of finalists here:

Roger Robinson has won the £25,000 (about $32,460) 2019 T.S. Eliot Prize for A Portable Paradise (Peepal Tree Press). Chair of judges John Burnside said that the collection “finds in the bitterness of everyday experience continuing evidence of ‘sweet, sweet life.’ ”

John le Carré has been awarded the $100,000 Olof Palme Prize, which honors “outstanding achievement in the spirit of assassinated Swedish politician Olof Palme,” the Bookseller reported. The organizers praised le Carré (a pseudonym for David Cornwell) for his “engaging and humanistic opinion making in literary form regarding the freedom of the individual and the fundamental issues of mankind.” Previous winners of the prize have included Kofi Annan, Hans Blix and Amnesty International. Le Carré said he will donate the prize money to Médecins Sans Frontières.

Australian independent booksellers and Leading Edge Books have announced their SHORTLIST for the Indie Book Awards 2020 for the best Australian books published in 2019. The Category Winners and the Overall Book of the Year Winner will be announced at the Leading Edge Books Annual Conference Awards Dinner to be held on Monday 23 March 2020. The list includes, for fiction: There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett (Hachette Australia), Bruny by Heather Rose (Allen and Unwin), The Wife and the Widow by Christian White (Affirm Press), and The Weekend by Charlotte Wood (Allen and Unwin). For nonfiction, Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch (Allen and Unwin), 488 Rules for Life: The Thankless Art of Being Correct by Kitty Flanagan (Allen and Unwin), Tell Me Why by Archie Roach (Simon & Schuster Australia), and Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World by Tyson Yunkaporta (Text Publishing).  The full list can be found here: The Awards recognise and celebrate the indie booksellers as the number one supporters of Australian authors.

The winners of the Jewish Book Council’s 2019 National Jewish Book Awards have been announced. The Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award was given to Pamela S. Nadell for America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today (Norton). Robert Alter won the Lifetime Achievement Award for The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary (Norton). Alice Hoffman won the Miller Family Book Club Award in Memory of Helen Dunn Weinstein and June Keit Miller for The World That We Know (Simon & Schuster), and Fly Already: Stories by Etgar Keret (Riverhead Books) won the JJ Greenberg Memorial Award for Fiction. Other winners and finalists in several categories can be seen here: 

Finalists have been named for the Costa Short Story Award, which is run in association with the Costa Book Awards but judged independently of the main five-category system, the Bookseller reported. It is also judged anonymously, without the name of the author being known throughout the process. The winner, who will be decided by public vote and announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony January 28, receives £3,500 (about $4,570), while second and third place finishers get £1,000 (about $1,305) and £500 (about $650) respectively.  This year’s nominees are Anna Dempsey for “The Dedicated Dancers of the Greater Oaks Retirement Community”; Kerry Hood for “The Dog Friend of Dastardly”; and Iain Rowan for “Birds of the Mountain.”

Jack Fairweather won the £30,000 (about $39,215) Costa Book of the Year award for his book The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz, which was honored during the same week the world marked the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation, the Bookseller reported. Chair of judges Sian Williams said, “One of the reasons that we loved it so much is it reads like a thriller, it doesn’t really read like a biography at all and yet you don’t feel as though it’s over-dramatized in any way. The facts speak for themselves and they are incredibly well researched–about 3,000 different sources–and I think as a journalist that appealed to me, just how well researched it was…. This is a story that none of us had heard before and it just deserved to be shouted about.” Anna Dempsey won the Costa Short Story Award for “The Dedicated Dancers of the Greater Oaks Retirement Community.”

Finally, a 12-book longlist has been announced for the £30,000 International Dylan Thomas Prize, sponsored by Swansea University and recognizing the “best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under.” This year’s list features seven novels, three poetry collections and two short story collections. A shortlist will be released April 7 and a winner unveiled May 14, which is International Dylan Thomas Day. The longlisted titles are Surge by Jay Bernard, Flèche by Mary Jean Chan, Exquisite Cadavers by Meena Kandasamy, Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan, Black Car Burning by Helen Mort, Virtuoso by Yelena Moskovich, Inland by Téa Obreht, Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler, If All the World and Love Were Young by Stephen Sexton, The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, and Lot by Bryan Washington.

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Catrina Pomerleau, who won a copy of David Lazar by Robert Kalich.

Congratulations also to Sharon Berger, who won a copy of The Escapist by David Puretz.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of Bells for Eli by Susan Beckham Zurenda to give away!  To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Bells” and your postal address in the body of the message.

We also have a copy of Wild Ride Home: Love, Loss, and a Little White Horse, A Family Memoir by Christine Hemp. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Wild Ride Home” and your postal address in the body of the message.

Finally, we have 2 Kindle copies of Jim’s Revenge by Andrew R. Williams.  To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Jims Revenge”.

We have approximately 10,000 subscribers and I get about 5-600 entries to our comps a month, so your chances of winning are very good!  Please don’t hesitate to get those entries in!  

Good luck, everyone!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Who’s Minding the Farm by Patrice Newell, Not What You Think by Clark Gormley, Bone Chalk by Jim Reese, Dancing in Santa Fe by Beate Sigriddaughter, and lots more reviews and interviews. 

Drop by The Compulsive Reader talks (see widget on right hand side of the site) or  to listen to our latest episode which features a wonderful interview between novelist and poets Jessica Mehta novelist and Nina Murray.  To listen, visit the show page or you can listen directly from the site widget (right hand side of the site). You can also subscribe to the show via iTunes and get updates automatically, straight to your favourite listening device. Find us under podcasts by searching for Compulsive Reader. Then just click subscribe. 


(c) 2020 Magdalena Ball. Nothing in this newsletter may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher, however reprint rights are readily available. Please feel free to forward this newsletter in its entirety.

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